Speaking Out: The Tragedy of COVID-19

Some miracles have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, but unfortunately, not for the Gaines family of Oran, Mo. Family members speak out to convince others to take COVID-19 very seriously and become aware of its potentially deadly consequences.

Impacting Lives

“I feel compelled to share the following information to increase your awareness of how serious COVID-19 can be. The decisions and actions you make each day can ultimately impact another life. The question is if it will be a positive impact or one that can lead to devastation,” explains Sarah Gaines Young, daughter of John Robert Gaines.

“At the onset of the COVID-19 virus, my worst fear was the outcome if my 58- and 63-year-old parents should get it. Unfortunately, this fear became a reality in October when my dad was exposed and faced a six-week battle against the virus and its complications.”

During the initial weeks, Gaines experienced many of the common COVID symptoms. ‘He started to improve after two weeks, and we thought he was on the road to recovery. However, pneumonia set in during the third week following symptom onset, and he was admitted to the COVID Care Unit at Saint Francis Medical Center in week four when his oxygen saturation plummeted to just 74 percent,” shares Young.

Gaines did well overall the first few days at Saint Francis while receiving oxygen, but his saturation level dropped further. He was intubated and sedated.

“After being on the vent for a week, he seemed to be progressing well. The next step was breathing and awakening trials, which would initiate steps in weaning from the vent. Unfortunately, the following days did not go as we had hoped, and his condition worsened. He relied more on vent support and increased sedation. His kidney function decreased, and he required multiple rounds of dialysis. By the end of the week, doctors noted multi-organ failure and that my dad’s body was shutting down,” continues Young.

A Big Deal

“COVID-19 is a horrible virus, and it spreads way too easily. Please, do not take the virus lightly. If you or others do not experience major symptoms with COVID, count your blessings. Be thankful things did not go worse, but know that it is NOT an excuse to pretend the virus is not a big deal, because it is,” stresses Young.

Young begs, “Please, do your part in decreasing the spread. Due to a large number of asymptomatic individuals, it is critical for everyone to follow CDC guidance and not unknowingly place others around you at unnecessary risk. Wear your mask and wear it properly. Avoid large crowds and practice social distancing. Do not get complacent. Do not let your guard down. A few precautions taken by you can be the difference in life or death for someone else.”

Shattered Dreams

“At the beginning, I did not have fears because I thought for sure John was going to improve. Other people had been on the vent, eventually got off and got sent home. He seemed to improve every day in ICU, and we thought Saturday, November 21, was the day he would have his sedation lessened and be able to do breathing trials,” shares Debbie Gaines, his wife of 38 years.

The Gaines Family

The entire family participated in a nine-day novena to St. Jude, the favorite saint of Gaines’ dad. The novena was completed on November 21.

“However, he seemed to worsen daily after that day. His lungs were in worse shape than we knew from years of having rheumatoid arthritis, and he fought to breathe. From that day forward, our fears were maybe he would not improve enough to get off the vent and that he would die or be in a very critical state the rest of his life.”

“When you think of your life, you think you will be with your spouse for a very long time, grow old together and enjoy many special moments along the way. You do not think he will be taken away from you very early in his life and have you live on without him. When that reality hits, you have a better understanding of what life really is. I know John is now out of pain from his rheumatoid arthritis, topped with the COVID, and is with his everlasting Father in Heaven,” shares Debbie with a sigh of relief.

Exemplary Care

The family complimented Saint Francis on the high quality of care Gaines received. They felt well informed of his condition even though unable to visit during his stay. The staff was always willing to talk with the family when phoning in for updates. They expressed true appreciation for the respiratory therapists, nurses and John’s physicians.

Debbie elaborates, “We were impressed with [the physicians]: How [they] kept us informed, the long hours [they were] taking care of John, [their] concern for us and the level of care [they] provided John. [They] made sure the entire family was on the same page regarding John’s health.”

The family was allowed to be with John Gaines when his time on Earth was near an end. Although it is a sorrowful time, the family feels uplifted by the love and compassion displayed by the Saint Francis staff. In addition to his wife, Gaines’ sisters Betty Gaines Essner and Martha Gaines Hamm were by his side when he passed.*

Heartfelt Thanks

John Robert Gaines
John Robert Gaines

“I am so thankful for…all those [providers] whose names I do not know that showed compassion to us that night, from the security guards in the Emergency Department to the nurses in the ICU, that made it possible for us to be with my brother during his last hours. I am also so thankful for Pastoral Care and all the professional personnel that cared for and were there with my brother when we could not be with him,” proclaims Essner.

John Robert Gaines, 63, of Oran, Mo., passed away November 29, 2020, at Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau. He was a lifelong farmer, retiring recently in 2017. He leaves behind his wife Debbie, daughter Sarah, son Derek, brother Andrew, and sisters Mary Ann, Martha, Donna and Betty.

* Saint Francis allows for compassionate visitation for those passing with varying restrictions based on the situation.